FEARLESS NOMADS: MIKE & BRITTNI ROGERS
Mike and Brittni are super cool. I have been following them for a while now because of their simple minimalistic design and fondness for travel. I use their products. I tried my first WordPress site using their themes which are absolutely amazing, simple, and easy to understand especially when you are a newbie trying to figure it all out. I also use their Ladypreneur Mockup Kit which has been a lifesaver when I need a blog post template fast and I don't have the time to spend designing a new one. I wanted to interview Mike and Brittni mostly because I admire them and what they have done with their business. Read their whole inspiring interview below and then go check out their awesome themes and templates.
TELL US WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO!
We’re Brittni and Mike! We make WordPress themes and design kits for creative entrepreneurs, all available from our shop Station Seven. We also run Creatives in Transit; originally a travel/digital nomad-icism blog, now focusing on advice and resources for creative entrepreneurs. Other than that, we’re basically just a pair of pretty casual Canadians from Vancouver :)
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
We’re always working on new WordPress themes and digital design products, but recently we’ve been exploring branching out into new platforms (shh - it’s a secret for now!). We’re also working on a rebrand for Station Seven - maybe it’s just something about being designers, but we’re constantly updating our look.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT CREATING YOUR OWN RULES AND RUNNING YOUR OWN SHOW?
There’s the obvious answers like the flexibility to work when and where we want, but there’s also a lot more than that. The creative freedom to pursue projects that we enjoy (and not necessarily only the ones that pay the bills) is a huge motivator for us.
Probably the best part about running a business is knowing that all of the success or failure is yours alone. No one is telling you what to do and no one is making the decisions for you - every day is a new challenge and you never stop learning. I guess this could also be one of the worst things about running your own business as well as it is a daily source of stress for us, but we’ll take the optimistic outlook on it today!
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE LEARNED THE HARD WAY?
Learning to cut your losses quickly. After reading way too many blogs about bootstrapping an online business, we decided that we literally needed to outsource work overseas to be successful. After investing over $1k in recruitment agencies, we ended up having two people from the Philippines working for us doing development and customer support. Needless to say, it was a disaster; we spent way too much time trying to get them up to speed, nothing got done,we paid them many months worth of salary and we were stressed out every single day. We’d never had to “fire” anyone before, so were repeatedly second-guessing ourselves; was it just us being bad managers and not providing enough guidance? In hindsight, we waited two months too long to pull the plug on that expensive exercise, something that should have been noticeable after the first week if only we were confident enough. We’ve since grown our team with some amazing people from North America, and couldn’t be happier.
HOW IS RUNNING A BUSINESS AS A COUPLE? ARE THERE ANY THINGS YOU FIND DIFFICULT, AND HOW DO YOU SOLVE THOSE PROBLEMS?
Hard! Small disagreements easily escalate into heated battles, because everything becomes very personal. We tend not to censor ourselves around one another in a way you might around proper “coworkers”, and too often exchange “choice” words with one another. We’ve learned to understand though that disagreements or arguments in our work are not personal attacks on the other person, and make it a point to never hold grudges. It’s also all we talk about. Every time we go for long walk, a leisurely lunch at a restaurant, when we’re on vacation or even when we get into bed at night - we can’t get away from it. On the flip side we probably have more things in common and more to talk about on a daily basis than your average couple.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT WORKING AS A PAIR?
The ability to tag team projects; whenever one of us is ready to throw in the towel, the other is there to tag in, lend a hand and get things done. With twice the manpower, it also means that large projects are much less intimidating than trying to face something alone. Just having the emotional support nearby is priceless; running your own business is full of so many ups and downs, having someone to lean on and talk it out with makes any situation manageable.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR BUSINESS OWNERS THAT WORK WITH SOMEONE CLOSE?
Recognize that your own times of motivation will not always coincide with your partner’s, and that’s ok. Don’t feel obligated to work just because the other is working, and vice versa. If the motivation hits, take the momentum and run with it. Otherwise don’t feel guilty for taking a nap - we nap all the time. Don’t get hung up on equality of responsibility - it always evens out. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses that are needed at unique times. Trying to play tit-for-tat on workloads only breeds resentment.
WE LOVE YOUR THEMES THAT YOU CREATE FOR WORDPRESS. HOW DID YOU GET INTO THAT BUSINESS? DID YOU LEARN TO CODE ON YOUR OWN OR DID YOU GO THROUGH SCHOOLING?
Aww, thanks so much! We are true DIY-ers, and are completely self taught. Brittni was putting together a portfolio site for herself using WordPress when she was finishing a part-time graphic design program, and kept running into problems. I offered to help out, and found I really enjoyed working with the platform. We helped out a few friends with their existing WordPress sites before moving on to larger projects. We did custom site builds for clients for some time, but struggled at managing the client relationship and designing sites that didn’t excite us. Building WordPress themes instead was an opportunity to continue doing what we love, design on our own terms, and free ourselves from the (draining) client relationships. We’re both quite introverted at heart, so this arrangement suits us a lot better.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE IS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHME
Every day we marvel at the fact that we have created a business that allows us to live on our own terms - financially, geographically and in regards to our time. We’ve been able to do that, now we need to figure out how to keep it going for the rest of our lives!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Be selective about your time. Eliminate distraction. Maybe that means saying no to social events, family gatherings or working at a job you hate. Starting off, time is the best (and only) asset you have - use it wisely. Be selective about who you surround yourself with. Some friends and family may not be supportive and will question your motives or cast doubt on your plans. For us, it meant moving across the world for a year to focus on what we wanted to, and the group we found ended up being the most supportive, inspirational and genuine friends we’ve made in a long time.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT CREATING AND RUNNING A BUSINESS?
Talk about the business, haha. Traditionally it’s been travel and living abroad; we have a soft spot for Asia as well as long leisurely road trips. Now, we have a baby on the way which will be our new adventure. We’re just as excited about that in the same way (plus we will have something to talk about other than our business).
HOW HAS TRAVEL AND SEEKING ADVENTURE HELPED YOUR BUSINESS?
It’s allowed us to expand our creativity and not be confined to the conventional ways of doing things. Meeting so many new people around the world (both travelers and locals alike) makes you realize that there are an infinite number of ways to live your life and be content other than what they tried to teach you in school. Beyond that, learning to be comfortable outside your comfort zone is a skill that can serve you your whole life. Traveling has a way of putting you into sticky situations, but knowing you will be able to figure things out on your own will give you the confidence to tackle bigger risks in business and life.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO FIND INSPIRATION?
The Ocean. We love the ocean and miss it when we’re away for too long. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest gave us an appreciation for the relaxing atmosphere of constantly being near water. We take daily walks along the seaside trails by our house, and the Pacific Coast Highway remains our favorite road trip journey that we revisit on a near annual basis.